Al Jazeera has a piece on Syria's Baath party meeting on reforms: Syria's ruling Baath party has begun its first congress in five years, with opposition figures expected to pressure members to approve careful reform measures. Baath party members said on Monday that the four-day meeting should authorise new political parties and free local elections, although restrictions are likely to accompany the reforms. [...] He told the 1200 delegates at the conference that the party "must enlarge popular participation through a greater opening in the direction of national forces which open the way to all for contributing towards the building of Syria," he said, wthout giving details. After reading this, I wonder, why does it all seem so familiar? I could swear i heard this said before somewhere. Oh yeah! I swear to god Gimmy and Bisho read from the same playbook. In other Syrian news, the plans of the US to push for refroms in Syria are being thwarted by (who else?) the European Union. Washington has urged the EU to hold off on signing a trade and aid pact with Syria, citing its doubts that Damascus withdrew all intelligence agents from Lebanon and was allowing fighters to enter Iraq. [...] Another unnamed European diplomat involved in the discussions also told Reuters that the Americans made clear they "don't want any positive gestures" made towards Syria at this time. The latest move underscores US determination to maintain pressure on Damascus and keep a lid on any overtures from Europe to warm ties with Syria. The US's idea is simple: with US sanctions imposed on them, and with Syria- and the 500, 000 Syrian workers- out of Lebanon, the country is economically cornerd. The US intended to keep things this way- as a form of economic pressure- until some actual democratic reforms are implemented and some real Iraqi border control is in place and doing it's job. It's basically in the best interest of both Iraq and the syrian population. Europe, of course, thinks different. They think the syrians deserve to be rewarded for pulling out of Lebanon. Apparently not doing the wrong thing anymore is reason enough for rewards in the eyes of the european countries. However, some European diplomats said the bloc was preparing to push ahead with signing the so-called Association Agreement as a reward to Syria for pulling its soldiers out of Lebanon after 29 years. The Association Agreement, which the EU and Syria initialled in October after months of wrangling over the wording of a clause renouncing weapons of mass destruction, would give the Arab state greater access to EU markets in exchange for progress in areas such as democracy and human rights What they don't get is that any rewards are not likely to benefit the syrian people at all; they will benefit and sustain the syrian tyrannical regime, and allow it to continue to exist, Syrian people's rights be damned.